Punjab legislators never miss an opportunity to call the Vidhan Sabha the “holy house”, but the actions of some of them on Friday were at variance with their frequent chants. Unruly scenes dominated the proceedings of the House that complicated the task of speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, who often found himself trapped in the crossfire.
Disorder prevailed mainly during the debate on the motion of thanks on the Governor’s address as the first-time Congress legislators were in the forefront creating chaos on matters not even remotely concerning the people of Punjab.
Apparent tension between the speaker and treasury benches came to the fore as sharp exchanges took place between deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and speaker Atwal, the Akali Dal MLA from Payal.
The first salvo was fired by the first-time firebrand Independent MLAs Balwinder Singh Bains and Simarjit Singh Bains—known as Bains brothers who represent Ludhiana South and Atam Nagar segments, respectively—who launched a scathing personal attack against Virsa Singh Valtoha, chief parliamentary secretary, who was the main target of the opposition.
As the din prevailed, the deputy CM sought the speaker’s intervention. But the speaker took exception to Sukhbir’s advice. Later, the speaker expunged the exchange of words between the two.
Motion of thanks
Peace prevailed only when Bibi Jagir Kaur, the Bolath MLA of the Akali Dal, moved the motion of thanks on the Governor’s address as the opposition benches were empty and nearly 30 ruling party MLAs were present. Commotion prevailed when KD Bhandari (BJP) got up to second the motion Jagir Kaur had moved. The Congress MLAs—about 50% of the total 42—were back in the House and started disrupting the proceedings.
“You are just trying to register your presence,” the speaker told the Congress benches, indirectly referring to the presence of central Congress leaders on the Vidhan Sabha premises.
However, a section of the Congress MLAs didn’t relent and escalated their strategy of shouting and hooting as Valtoha rose to speak on the Governor’s address after an impressive speech by Congress MLA Sukhjinder Singh.
Congress MLAs Kuljit Singh Nagra (Fatehgarh Sahib), the giant killer Amrinder Singh Raja Warring (Gidderbaha), Parminder Singh Pinki (Ferozepur City) and Tarlochan Singh (Banga) sprang up and started shouting before Valtoha could speak. This prompted the speaker to urge both sides not to disturb each other.
“Valtoha disturbs us when we speak,” Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Charanjit Singh Channi argued. Suddenly, and much to the speaker’s surprise, around 2pm, the CLP leader trooped into the well of the House protesting against Valtoha not concluding his speech. The speaker advised the CLP leader that the Congress was also allotted two hours and how long Valtoha spoke was solely the Akali Dal’s concern.
Warring was so upset that he was seen disagreeing with the CLP leader’s advice. Warring walked into the well of the House and raised slogans even against the speaker. With his hands inside his pockets, Warring was seen arguing with Atwal. But the speaker politely told Warring, “Rajaji, listen to me...you are wrong...” Just four to five Congress MLAs followed Warring as senior party leaders quietly watched the proceedings.
When Warring crossed over the floor and went to speak to the deputy CM, the speaker pointed out the irregularity. Having failed to convince Warring, Channi walked out of the House.
“The members should understand their responsibility. I am working as per the rules...do you understand rules?” the speaker was heard saying in the din.